The Krishna Avanti School opened its doors to the press for the first time on Friday 29th January which resulted in extensive coverage in local and national papers, radio and television.
The School is the first Voluntary Aided Hindu faith school in the country and is recognized as the most eco-friendly. The School, in the London borough of Harrow is also Britain’s first vegetarian state school.
A white carved marble Temple is at the centre of the school building. Every morning the children chant Sanskrit prayers in front of the deities of Krishna-Balaram, afterwards there are lessons that include meditation and yoga. They study the national curriculum, but also tend the garden and learn concepts such as the equality of all living things. Multiculturalism forms an important part of the School’s philiosophy, and they already have strong ties with near-by schools.
The heart of the School’s ethos is harmony with the environment, which includes the building, landscape, curriculum and even school meals. The School has a state-of-the-art building design with the highest aspirations for sustainability and conservation. It seeks to be an inspirational example of an educational environment for the future.
It has unique eco-systems including wildlife zones, vegetable, fruit and flower gardens and sedum roofs. The building structure has been built timber structure with timber cladding, rainwater harvesting and ground source heat pumps (which provide 70% of the school’s heating).
The School is already highly popular and is vastly oversubscribed. It is an I-Foundation project working since inception with the International Society for Krishna Consciousness as the official Faith Partner. It is one form entry, mixed primary school.
Cllr David Ashton, Leader of Harrow Council, said:
“We have been pleased to support the establishment of the country’s first state funded Hindu primary school in Harrow, both at the planning stage and then by offering temporary classrooms for its pupils while this outstanding site was built.”
“Not only does the school provide an excellent education, but also a spiritual foundation. We like the teachers unique approach having a temple within the school itself is wonderful.”
Mrs Negin Algani (mother of Lakshmi Narasimha, aged 5)
” Krishna-Avanti School offers to our child the rare opportunity to grow and develop at all levels: socially, emotionally, academically and specially spiritually .”
Mrs Elena Beltran-Clarke (mother of Bodhini, aged 6)
“It is our first choice for our daughter to attend this school so she can be in association of other Hindu Vaisnavas and be learning our faith as well as keeping up with the national curriculum. Giving this foundation start from a young age, such as attending aarti, taking darshan, learning prayers, honouring prasadam, learning slokas and Krishna stories, is so important, this is the sort of nurturing I will be giving to my child at home”.
Mrs. Bhavisha Mehta (mother of Heeya Mehta, aged 3)
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The Krishna Avanti School officially opened in September 2008 in temporary accommodation and moved into its new premises in September 2009.
The DCSF provided £11.1 million towards the £13.5 million total project cost. It is located in the London Borough of Harrow, which has the highest percentage of Hindus than any borough in the UK. Plans are now being pipelined for a secondary school in either Barnet or Harrow, and a further school in Leicester.
The project has achieved a UK BREEAM Schools ‘excellent’ rating with a score of 75.91%. This is currently the highest rating score of any school in the UK.
Hindu Secondary School
The I-Foundation is now seeking to develop a secondary school, in particular to give children from the Krishna Avanti school somewhere to which to graduate.
It has identified two possible sites, one on the Barnet/Harrow borders on the A1 and one in Leicester. Both are near the two largest concentrations of Hindu population. To take forward either or both these projects it will need:
The DCSF currently says that all the money available for new secondary school building is already committed elsewhere, through the Building Schools for Future programme, making it impossible to move forward. BSF’s aim is to renew nearly every secondary school in England. Whilst this is helpful to all other faith groups, who have existing schools, it places the Hindu community at an even greater disadvantage. This was never its intention.
All the main parties are committed to faith education to some extent or another.
The current lack of a single Hindu secondary school is patently unfair. It is important not to discriminate between faiths, by accident or design, as this can damage community relations. In the past, the Hindu community felt unable to lobby for its own schools for fear of discrimination. Now the community is gaining in self-confidence, it seems to be being told it’s too late.
A Hindu secondary school could set a great example of what faith schooling should really be about. The next generation of faith schools need to be not just academically excellent, but also outward looking and inclusive. This is exactly the Hindu model of faith schooling.
This proposal is parent-led by a group that has already proved it can deliver a school.
The I-Foundation is already committed to raising around millions of pounds from within its community and has a track record to show this is achievable.